House Republican leaders have given the Commerce Committee until May 14 to vote on financial reform.
Rep. Michael G. Oxley, the chairman of Commerce's finance subcommittee, said Wednesday that that would be enough time. "I don't see any particular problem with that," the Ohio Republican said. "We aren't going to reinvent the wheel .... I think this time we are going to get it done."
House Banking leaders and industry officials hailed the tight deadline.
"It is compatible with speedy action" on the House floor by the end of May, a Banking Committee spokesman said.
"It keeps the momentum behind financial modernization," said Samuel J. Baptista, chairman of the Financial Services Council.
Still, Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr. is expected to push that deadline to the limit to see first how the Senate votes.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott has said he wants to start debate by the second week of May, but that depends on the success of negotiations between Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm and Democrats on community reinvestment provisions, new powers for bank subsidiaries, and other issues.
Sen. Gramm told reporters Wednesday that he was making progress with Democrats but vowed to ram a bill through the Senate by mid-May, even without a deal.
"We can pass it on a tough, partisan basis if we have to," the Texas Republican said, but "my first preference would be a bipartisan bill."
Speaking at a Security Traders Association conference here, Rep. Oxley said his subcommittee would invite top federal regulators to two days of hearings in April. He predicted that the full committee would pass a bill by early May.
Rep. Oxley said Commerce would scale back powers for bank subsidiaries, eliminating provisions in the House Banking Committee version that would let them underwrite securities and conduct merchant banking activities. The committee will also review measures on privacy and unitary thrifts, but he gave no details.
Rep. Oxley and Sen. Gramm warned that Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt could pose a roadblock. Mr. Levitt told them in meetings earlier in the day that the SEC wants to regulate mutual funds sold by banks and force banks to move securities activities into affiliates regulated by his agency, Rep. Oxley said.
"He's not enthusiastic," Rep. Oxley said. "He has some real concerns about the role of the SEC and functional regulation."
Sen. Gramm added: "We are going to try to be sensitive to the concerns he has."
The House Banking Committee approved a reform bill on a 51-to-8 vote March 11, but Senate Banking adopted its own version on an 11-to-9, party- line tally on March 4.